Friday, 17 December 2004
Order of Business.
Derek McDowell (Labour)
I join the other Members in wishing the Cathaoirleach and his staff a happy Christmas and a good new year. It has been an interesting session in some ways. The Leader has been extremely successful in streamlining the processes of the House. We have managed to separate the Second Stage from the Committee and Remaining Stages of Bills, something that did not always happen previously and does not always happen in the other House. That must be good for the quality of debate here. The Leader has also been very successful in procuring the regular attendance of senior Ministers, who seem to spend a little longer in the House than they might have done in the past. It is all to the good and contributes to the standing of the House. Like other Senators, I pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach, Jody Blake, Deirdre Lane and EamonnMcCormack. We should also include Jimmy Walsh, who is out there somewhere in the ether.
I will not detain the House unduly on the issue that Senator Norris raised. However, it is important, and we should not ignore it this morning. I have nothing in common with those men in Colombia. I do not believe that they were there to go bird-watching and have no doubt that they were there for less than reputable reasons. However, it is important that people such as I, who have nothing in common with them politically, say this. There is a serious onus on the Colombian authorities to prove that they were guilty of the charges made against them. I do not believe that they have discharged that. That, ultimately, is the test of democracy and the test of the legal system. The men had an open trial before a judge, of which many of us were sceptical, conducted under the glare of the international media, as a result of which they were found guilty on one charge and not guilty on others. However, that has been superseded by a process which has been largely secret and not open in any way to public scrutiny. Since these people are our citizens, we have to say that is not acceptable.